Catalog Location when Traveling


Today’s Question: If I use an external disk [when traveling] for my primary photo files (with a second external disc for backup), should the catalog be also placed on the primary external disk? That would save a step when merging to the home (main) computer, and keep it all together. My laptop has limited storage.

Tim’s Quick Answer: The answer here depends on your priorities. Having the catalog on an external hard drive along with your photos is very convenient when it comes time to transferring the photos to your “master” catalog. However, this approach will also generally have a bit of a negative impact on overall performance in Lightroom.

More Detail: Lightroom makes extensive use of the catalog files, which contain the information about all of the photos being managed by Lightroom. Therefore, having that catalog on a hard drive that provides the best performance possible. In most cases, that translates to having the Lightroom catalog files stored on an internal hard drive.

Of course, it is relatively common that a laptop computer won’t have adequate internal storage for all of the photos you might capture during a trip. In that case, an external hard drive provides an excellent solution for photo storage. In other words, you will have the catalog on your internal hard drive and your photos on an external hard drive. This provides the additional benefit of being able to review your photos (and update metadata for them) within Lightroom even if the external hard drive with your photos is not connected to the computer.

That said, if you have the catalog on the internal hard drive and the photos on the external hard drive, you will likely want to copy the catalog files to the external hard drive in order to have the catalog and photos available on your primary hard drive for purposes of merging your traveling catalog with your master catalog.

In this situation you could simply copy the folder containing your traveling catalog onto the external hard drive that contains your photos, and then import from that catalog on your primary computer. You could also make use of the “Export as Catalog” command (found on the File menu) to help ensure you are copying all necessary files to an external hard drive that can then be connected to your primary computer.

There are obviously a variety of ways you could approach this workflow. You can see my personal approach in the courses “Tim’s Real Organizational Workflow” in the GreyLearning video training library ( The key is to develop a workflow that makes sense based on your specific needs, and then use that workflow consistently.

Managing Time-Lapses


Today’s Question: I recently created 80+ time-lapse sequences in Photoshop. Since Lightroom doesn’t handle time-lapse very well is there a good reason to include them in the catalog?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The answer here depends a little bit on your specific workflow needs, but from my perspective it is still helpful to have your time-lapse captures included in your Lightroom catalog. My approach is to put time-lapse captures into a sub-folder within the primary folder (if applicable) that contains other images captured at the same time. But having those photos available provides a number of benefits, so I recommend including them.

More Detail: To begin with, I simply prefer having “everything” in my Lightroom catalog, in terms of all of the photos and video clips I have captured. I even wish Lightroom would enable me to include audio clips that were recorded as part of my overall photography and videography, but that’s a different matter.

I also consider it helpful to have my time-lapse captures in my Lightroom catalog simply so I will remember that I actually have them. I capture a lot of photos, and can’t possibly remember every photograph I’ve ever captured or every trip I’ve ever taken. By having the time-lapse captures (in their own folder) included in my Lightroom catalog, I have a better chance of remembering that the images actually exist.

Perhaps more importantly, I find there is a tremendous workflow advantage to having my time-lapse captures in Lightroom. As you have probably realized by now, when assembling a time-lapse video from a sequence of individual captures, you generally want to apply some batch adjustments to those images. For example, the images should be scaled down to a smaller size, and often cropped, based on the final video resolution you’re going to produce. I also often like to synchronize adjustments to all of the images I’m assembling into a time-lapse, both to correct exposure or color in the photos and also to apply creative effects to the images.

I personally use Apple QuickTime Pro (an older version) to assemble my time-lapse sequences. I therefore employ Lightroom to synchronize adjustments across all of the images in the sequence, and then export those images from Lightroom to create the derivative images that I will actually use to create the time-lapse video.

The bottom line is that I do find it tremendously advantageous to have my time-lapse captures included in my Lightroom catalog. I realize that the notion of having hundreds (or thousands) of “extra” photos in your Lightroom catalog may seem like a disadvantage, but from my perspective the advantages of having those photos included in your Lightroom catalog exceeds the disadvantages.

Consolidating Drives


Today’s Question: How can I consolidate the images in Lightroom from two smaller internal drives onto a new, larger hard drive?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The process here is relatively straightforward. First, make sure you have a reliable backup of all of the photos in your entire catalog, just to be safe. Then add a “photos” folder to the new larger hard drive, making that drive visible in Lightroom in the process. At this point you can select all of the folders from the smaller drives, one drive at a time, and drag-and-drop those folders to the new hard drive location.

More Detail: You can make the new larger hard drive visible in Lightroom simply by adding a folder to that drive. Make sure the new drive is connected to the computer, and then in Lightroom click the “plus” (+) button to the right of the Folders header on the left panel in the Library module and choose “Add Folder” from the popup menu. Navigate to the new hard drive, and click the “New Folder” button at the bottom-left of the dialog. Enter a meaningful name (such as “PHOTOS”) for this new folder, and then click Choose to create the new folder. This folder will serve as the “parent” folder for all of your other folders, and once you’ve added this folder in Lightroom the folder (and thus the new hard drive) will appear in the Folders list on the left panel.

Next, you can drag-and-drop folders from the smaller drives to the new drive. This can be accomplished by selecting multiple folders on a single drive to streamline the process. Simply click on the top-most folder on the first drive, then hold the Shift key and click on the bottom-most folder on the same drive. With all of the folders selected, you can then point your mouse to any of the selected folders and drag-and-drop to the new folder you created on the new drive. This process can be repeated for the other hard drive you want to transfer from. Note that Lightroom will ask for a confirmation that you want to move photos from one location to another.

Once you have copied all of the folders from the smaller internal hard drives to the new hard drive, it is a good idea to confirm there aren’t any photos that were missed. For example, you can browse the location where photos had been stored on your internal hard drives to make sure no photos remain. This might be the case if you had neglected to import some photos into your Lightroom catalog, for example. You can resolve that issue by importing the photos with the Move option, setting the destination to the new drive you’ve just transferred photos to.

It is worth keeping in mind that the process of moving photos from one hard drive to another can be a time-consuming process. If you have a particularly large Lightroom catalog, you might want to move folders in small batches, to ensure there aren’t any issues created if you need to cancel a large transfer before it is finished. But again, the overall process here is relatively simple.

Vertical Text


Today’s Question: I sometimes include text along the edge of a photo in Photoshop, and in certain cases want that text to appear vertically. I don’t mean that I want to rotate the text so it appears “sideways”, but rather that I want the letters to appear in the normal orientation, but with each letter of a word appearing directly below the letter above. I’ve been pressing Enter on the keyboard after every letter I type, but was thinking you might know a better approach. Is there a feature I’m missing that you know about?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There is actually a special Type tool in Photoshop that does exactly what you’re looking for. It is called the “Vertical Type Tool”, and it can be found “hiding” behind the normal Type tool (the “Horizontal Type tool”) on the toolbox. Simply click-and-hold your mouse on the button for the Type tool on the toolbox to bring up a flyout menu, where you can choose the Vertical Type tool. Then add text in the normal way, and it will “magically” appear in a vertical orientation.

More Detail: There are a wide variety of ways you can interact with (and manipulate) text in Photoshop, while still keeping the text fully editable. The Horizontal Type and Vertical Type tools provide some basic options for adding text, but you might also want to explore other options for adjusting the appearance of text.

For example, just as you can use the various Transform commands to skew and stretch image layers, so too can you apply these transformations to text.  You can apply the Transform commands (found on the Edit menu) directly to a text layer, and also click the “Create Warped Text” button on the Options bar to further distort the appearance of your text.

And, don’t forget, there are a variety of effects you can add to text (such as an emboss effect or drop shadow) by clicking the “fx” button at the bottom of the Layers panel after selecting a text layer. The bottom line is that text in Photoshop is tremendously editable, both in terms of changing the actual text, changing the font attributes, and applying transformations to the text layer itself.

“Upgrading” a Hard Drive


Today’s Question: I recently purchased an external 5 TB hard drive to be used strictly for the photos in my Lightroom catalog. My question is two-fold: Would it be best to move all of my photos to this new hard drive, or just start using it for the new photos? If it is best to move all the photo the files to the new drive, what is the best way to do it?

Tim’s Quick Answer: My preference is to keep all photos in a single storage location, in large part so that my entire folder listing for photos appears in one section on the left panel in Lightroom’s Develop module. Therefore, I recommend copying all photos to the new hard drive outside the context of Lightroom, then updating the new hard drive so it represents the same path as the old hard drive (with the old hard drive disconnected, of course).

More Detail: You can read more details about my recommended workflow in the article “Step by Step: Storage Upgrade” in the August 2014 issue of Pixology magazine ( In concept the process is very simple. All you need to do is copy the photos from the “old” drive to the “new” drive, disconnect the old drive, and then make the new drive appear with the same path so Lightroom will find photos where they are expected.

This is a rare situation where I perform image-management work outside of the context of Lightroom, in large part because Lightroom doesn’t make it easy to copy photos (rather than move photos) from one location to another without creating potential confusion.

So, I would first make sure I had a full backup of the old storage location, just to be on the safe side. Then quit Lightroom and copy the entire contents of the old photos drive to the new photos drive. Once that process is complete, the folder structure on the new hard drive will match the folder structure on the old drive. At this point you just need to make sure the hard drive represents the same path as the old drive did.

On the Macintosh platform you can simply change the volume label for the new drive to match that of the old drive. This is a simple matter of renaming the drive itself through the operating system. You can, for example, select the hard drive where it appears on the desktop. Then click on the name of the drive to enable renaming, and type the exact same name that had been used by the old photos drive.

On the Windows platform you need to change the drive letter for the new drive to match the drive letter that had been in use for the old drive. This can be accomplished using the Disk Management controls of the Computer Management application under the Control Panel. You can find this option by going to the Control Panel, going to the System and Security section, choosing Administrative Tools, and then launching Computer Management. You can then choose Disk Management from the left pane. Right click on the new hard drive, and choose Change Drive Letter and Paths. Then click Change, set the desired drive letter, and click OK.

In either case, the result is that to Lightroom the new drive looks exactly like the old drive in terms of the path and folder structure. At this point you can therefore launch Lightroom again, and all of the photos will be right where Lightroom is expecting them.

Printer Profiling


Today’s Question: How do you profile your printers?

Tim’s Quick Answer: When I need a custom printer profile I use the ColorMunki Photo package from X-Rite (, which enables you to calibrate and profile monitor displays and digital projectors, as well as create custom profiles for printers (or more specifically, a profile for a particular printer, ink, and paper combination). That said, I don’t need to generate custom printer profiles all that often.

More Detail: This was actually a follow-up question of sorts. The question from Friday asked about both display calibration and printer profiling, but for some reason I overlooked the question about printer profiling.

Quite often I find that it is not necessary to build a custom profile. That certainly wasn’t the case until relatively recently. But now I find that most printer profiles are very accurate, to the point that I’m able to use “generic” profiles for most prints.

To clarify, a printer profile is actually a profile for a specific printer, ink, and paper combination. The profiles included with your printer software will generally support most of the papers that are available from the manufacturer of your printer. For third-party papers, you can generally download profiles from that paper manufacturer’s website (at least for most of the popular models of printers).

I have found most of these profiles to be very accurate, enabling the production of high quality prints that match what I see on my display. In cases where a profile is not available, or I find that a profile isn’t accurate enough to produce an optimal print, I will generate a custom profile using the ColorMunki Photo package.

There are, of course, some other solutions for generating printer profiles, but I’ve found the ColorMunki Photo package from X-Rite to be the best solution for my needs.

The process of creating a printer profile, by the way, is relatively straightforward. You print a target image that includes a number of color swatches, and then use a special device (a spectrophotometer) to measure the color value that was actually produced for each swatch. Those values are compared to what was expected, and a profile is created as a result.

Monitor Calibration Tools


Today’s Question: After viewing your “Color Management for Photographers” video training course, I have decided that I need to calibrate both my monitor and printer. Which product do you currently recommend for this?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The display calibration tool I consider to represent excellent quality at a good price (and therefore the product I recommend most) is the ColorMunki Display from X-Rite, which you can find here:

More Detail: There are, of course, a variet of options available. While I highly recommend (and do own) the ColorMunki Display, I actually use the X-Rite i1Display Pro package ( This tool does offer a bit more control over the calibration process, but frankly it isn’t control that is really needed. In other words, I continue to use the i1Display Pro because I own it, but if I were buying a new monitor calibration tool today I would opt for the ColorMunki Display.

There are also a variety of other options available, including some very good tools from DataColor. That includes, for example, the Spyder5EXPRESS package, which you can find here:

The most important thing is that you use a package that includes a high-quality colorimeter. This is the device you actually place on the display to read the color and tonal values presented by the included software. Those values are then used to determine the compensation required for the display to be as accurate as possible, which forms the basis of the new display profile that will be created by the software you’re using to calibrate the display.

Blurring a Background


Today’s Question: In many cases I would like to keep my foreground subject in focus while blurring the background. Sometimes my backgrounds have more detail than I’d like.  I’d like to use Gaussian Blur [in Photoshop], but if I make a selection of my foreground to protect it from the blur, for some reason the blur causes a “bleed” of color from the edges of my selection. Any suggestions on how to work around this?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The simple solution here is to use the Lens Blur filter (instead of the Gaussian Blur filter) in conjunction with a saved selection. The Lens Blur filter can use the saved selection as a mask, which will protect the areas you don’t want to blur and prevent the “bleed” effect you’re seeing with Gaussian Blur.

More Detail: Note that this technique was covered in detail in the article “”Step by Step: Blurring a Background”, which appeared in the March 2015 issue of Pixology magazine ( The basic process involves working on a copy of the Background image layer, creating and saving a selection of the area you want to blur, and then applying the Lens Blur filter with the saved selection set as the mask for the filter.

In the days before the Lens Blur filter was available (it was introduced with Photoshop CS), it was possible to work around the limitation of the Gaussian Blur filter. This involved creating a selection of the area you wanted to blur, then applying a one-pixel Gaussian Blur to the selected area. You could then contract the selection by one pixel using the Contract command (Select > Modify > Contract) with the value for “Contract By” set to one pixel.

By repeating the process of blurring and contracting, by one pixel at a time for each, you are effectively building up the blur by an increasing amount as you move the selection outward from the edge of the area you’re protecting. You can automate this process with an action, but it is still far less efficient than using the Lens Blur filter combined with a saved selection.

Selections while Painting


Today’s Question: When painting on a layer mask [in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements] where I am trying to completely protect an area, I sometimes use a selection tool to only select the area I want to work on. This permits me to brush with ease and not worry about touching the protected area. Is this a procedure you ever use?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This is certainly a very helpful technique, and something I do in some situations, especially when the area where I need to clean up a layer mask follows a straight line.

More Detail: In most cases, if I need to create a layer mask that includes a straight edge I will have used a selection as the starting point for the layer mask. Alternatively, I might create a selection after creating an initial layer mask, and use the Fill command (found on the Edit menu) to fill the selected area of the layer mask with white or black as needed.

In situations where I need to work with precision to fine-tune the edge of a layer mask, I’m generally using a very small brush and am zoomed in very closely on the area I need to work on. Creating a selection in these types of situations could certainly be helpful, but I typically find that when I’m working in this way I am focused on individual pixels and therefore don’t gain a significant benefit from having a selection.

But again, there are certainly many cases where using a selection while painting to refine a layer mask can be very helpful. When you have a selection active, you can only paint within the area defined by that selection, even if you are painting on a layer mask. In this way, selections can be very helpful for protecting areas of the layer mask you don’t want to modify, while refining areas that need some additional work.

Brush Hardness for Masking


Today’s Question: In the “always versus never” department, do you always use a soft-edge brush when painting on a layer mask for a targeted adjustment in Photoshop? Do you never use a hard-edged brush?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I almost always use a soft-edged brush when painting on a layer mask for a targeted adjustment. In rare cases when I am working with a very small brush size with an area of the image that includes an abrupt transition, I will use a hard-edged brush (or a relative high setting for Hardness). But those situations are rare.

More Detail: When applying an adjustment that only affects one portion of an image, it is important to have a degree of transition between the areas being adjusted and the areas not being adjusted. This is especially important when the adjustment you’re applying is relatively strong.

When the adjustment is relatively subtle, there isn’t as much need for a transition between the areas being adjusted versus not. When there is an abrupt transition between the subject you’re adjusting versus the rest of the image, you don’t need as much transition. And when you’re working with a very small brush size, the transition doesn’t need to be as significant.

However, in most cases I will use at brush with at least a slightly soft edge. It is somewhat common for me to increase the Hardness value for the Brush tool above 0% when painting on a layer mask, but extremely rare for me to increase that Hardness value all the way to 100%.